A pleasant low level walk visiting the villages of West Tanfield, Mickley and North Stainley with a nice contrast of scenery including woodland and riverbank paths.
|Parking:||Car park, West Tanfield|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
I've driven through the villages of North Stainley and West Tanfield a countless number of times over the years whilst heading off for a walk in Coverdale or Wensleydale. Each time I've passed through I've thought to myself that I should take a look at the signposted Marmion Tower in West Tanfield or get some photos of the pretty ponds in North Stainley. The route for this walk was found in Paul Hannon's guide 'Nidderdale & Ripon' and handily combines a visit to both villages.
After parking in the car park opposite the Black Bull's own car park I went to take a look at the Marmion Tower before setting off on the walk proper. The tower, today owned by English Heritage, is the remains of a gatehouse to a lost manor house and dates back originally to the 14th century. It only takes a few minutes to look around and entrance is free. The spiral staircase on the right hand side leads up to the first floor where there are some lovely views of the village and the river. Don't bother carrying up the staircase from the first floor as it comes to a very abrupt dead end after climbing the equivalent of two more flights.
"What I didn't expect was that I would end up spending about ten minutes trying to shepherd two families of ducks who were trying to cross the busy road from one pond to another."
Having visited the Marmion Tower I walked back past the Black Bull and crossed over Tanfield Bridge. The view from the bridge of the river backed by West Tanfield was quite lovely. On the other side of the bridge I took a signed path on the right heading up a farm track. It is worth noting that the right of way differs to that shown on the map and continues almost to the entrance of Quarry House before being diverted to the left.
After passing through a couple of fields there was a nice path through a wood before emerging into an area of head high bracken. While a machete wasn't quite necessary I was glad to have my walking stick to help push myself through the undergrowth. Eventually the way improved before coming across a lovely field of golden wheat. Resisting the temptation to do a Theresa May I walked along the side of the wheat field at the end of which were some nice views of the River Ure.
Passing through some more woodland and across a couple of fields I arrived at the long one street village of Mickley. Judging by the size of the houses, most of which were set well back from the road, it is a place for the wealthy only. There was however a pretty little church with a bell cote. At the far end of the village I came across what must surely be the shortest bridleway in the country, a mere fifty metres or so from the road down to the riverbank. It did however pass a ruin, well hidden in the trees which I assumed may be an old mill.
Having made this diversion to the river I returned back to the road to climb a short distance before taking a path on the right heading into the woods of Mickley Barras. After about five minutes I double backed on a higher path leading to some scrubby pastures and back out on to the road. Turning right a short distance I then took a bridleway on the left. Initially a good cart track this eventually led me through Coal Bank Wood and along the edge of another couple of pastures before emerging on a quiet country road at Frizer Hill.
Turning left I walked along the road for half a mile until I reached the farm at Musterfield. Again the right of way is not as marked on the current OS maps, in this case because of the presence of a large limestone quarry. To access the bridleway it is necessary to continue past the farm, around a bend until reaching a gap in the hedge on the right. After passing through this double back along the hedge and continue around the edge of the field until reaching a track at the bottom. Turn right and follow this as it passes around the southern edge of Fiveponds Wood.
This track led me almost all the way to North Stainley, only leaving it at a final bend where a gate gives access to a more direct path through a field. Once in North Stainley I immediately made a beeline for the ponds that I'd been so eager to visit. What I didn't expect was that I would end up spending about ten minutes trying to shepherd two families of ducks who were trying to cross the busy road from one pond to another.
After seeing both families safely across and having taken a number of pictures I walked to the northern end of the village before taking a path on my right. After passing around the outside of a wood this led me high above the River Ure at a section that has been fenced off due to recent erosion. Continuing on I passed through the caravan site at Sleningford Water Mill and on to another section of riverbank. The riverbank was largely hidden by trees except at one point where there was a weir. Eventually the path led me back to Tanfield Bridge and the village where I'd started.